Edward Lehar, 18, approached the Charlestown YMCA last summer among dozens of other hopeful candidates. But, unlike some of his competitors, his application listed a myriad of Red Cross certifications, including lifeguard, CPR, and first aid.
“You need to constantly obtain new skills if you want a job today,” Lehar said. “Throw a really wide net and don’t consider anything as beneath you.”
While the current employment statistics don’t leave much room to pick and choose, Gelbtuch says teens can be creative with how they market their skills.
“Learn to sell yourself outside of formal employment,” he said. “If you baby-sat, if you were the captain of your sports team, those can be considered experience.”
Jack Nardi, 17, landed his job as a camp counselor at the Needham YMCA over a year ago, coming with no formal training. But his involvement in high school sports and coaching younger teams proved his passion for working with kids.
“It really helped that I worked with this basketball camp for four years,” said Nardi. “I was good with the kids so I highlighted that.”
Local nonprofits, businesses, and community organizations also encourage teens to “be a part of the fabric of the community,” says Gelbtuch, who finds that teens he works with find entry-level internships or volunteer jobs for the summer that sometimes turn into paid positions during the school year.
“Usually you can find informal internships locally,” he said. “With this sort of thing, you have to be OK with the fact that you might not have a full-time position.”
An open eye, and open mind, he said, is key to finding work. Recently, local companies have partnered with schools to offer paid and volunteer jobs at hospitals, financial companies, and in environmental and science research organizations.
“Teens may think they need to be trained [in a field] but they don’t,” said Gelbtuch. “Even if you are just volunteering at first, you can show an employer that you are worth hiring and that could turn into a [permanent] job.”
Katy Rushlau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org